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In terming behaviour as above one could imply that there is a wide variation in how learners conduct themselves in lessons; behaviour may be positive towards achieving learning goals, or as many teachers might fear behaviours negative towards the outcomes the teacher wants to achieve, (Cowley, 2010).
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Behaviour itself can be indicative of the ‘environment’ that the learners are in. This can be interpreted as the physical classroom in which the learners are in, so one should consider the layout as an importance: a seating plan can ensure that the more talkative learners are spread out away from one another but may alienate others who need friendship groups to gain the confidence to speak out in lesson. Having plenty of light, preferably natural light through the windows, and colour, possibly in the form of posters, can create a feeling of positivity in the classroom and thus motivate learners to work, (Wallace, 2007).
The learning environment can also be the culture of behaviour within the classroom. A classroom of talkative learners can be a noisy ‘environment’ whereas a silent classroom may be an oppressive ‘environment’.
Positive behaviours are at the root of a positive environment. Effective strategies for positive behaviours can be negotiated ground rules; getting the learners to agree on what is a reasonable rule means that they are much more likely to adhere to them Positive behaviours within the classroom such as participation in discussions, arriving on time or listening attentively all stem from the learners’ motivation to learn. Different learners are motivated in differing ways; however, one may draw parallel of a learner basic motivation to the first levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Learners will value their security so that they might “survive” in the classroom situation, (Petty, 2004). Therefore to encourage positive behaviours in the classroom these initial stages of motivation need to be catered for. Simple things such as having access to bottled water, being able to open the windows if too hot can easily meet the physiological needs of learners whilst knowing all the fire exit routes can meet the lower security needs.
In considering what might be thought of as misbehaviour, McLean suggests that most are a function of poor or inappropriately directed motivation and that most problems result from self-determination, not self-esteem. He further suggests that in approach to misbehaviour one should recognise learners actively seek control and responsibility and that it is best to offer them an opportunity to achieve this, (McLean, 2009).
Common forms of misbehaviour reported include: off-topic discussions during activities; talking when the instructor is talking; aggression such as responding to the teacher by cursing or learners may ‘act out’ making jokes or trying to get the teacher off-task by asking leading questions, (Steward, 2008). It is suggested by strategists such as Wallace that these behaviours are rooted in underlying factors which vary from learner to learner but all link into the learners need for security, (Wallace, 2007).
Wallace states that there are four ‘big demotivators’ which can lead to disruption within the classroom, (Wallace, p11-16, 2007). She suggests that the first, fear, can be the root of behaviours such as refusal to participate in group discussion or in fact acting out as a class clown so as to move off-topic and away from what they could believe they are ‘not clever enough’ to do. With these learners it is proposed that we should be approachable, and challenge the idea that smart isn’t ‘cool’. These learners might feel that they could be set up to fail; we should avoid this and start where the learners are, (Wallace, p11-16, 2007). Fear may link to a further demotivator, previous negative experience. Here learners see the teacher as the enemy and find that ‘winding up’ that teacher is easier than doing some work. To tackle this, an instructor might want to discourage passive learning and make the experience enjoyable. It is better to break down the tasks into attainable goals and aim to get the learners thinking that they can be successful at learning, (Wallace, p11-16, 2007).
Other learners can experience boredom as a demotivator causing them to move into ‘off-topic’ discussions, often when the teacher is trying to hold a group discussion or give an explanation. Often this can be because the work is too easy for the learner or the lesson lack activity. With so many learners to cater for in a class, differentiation and strategies such as individual learning plans can be used to tackle boredom. Surprising the learners with frequent change in focus or activity can keep them engaged, whilst discovering their interests and building them into the sessions can further reduce the possibility of disruption, (Wallace, p11-16, 2007).
Finally in the four demotivators discussed by Wallace learners may experience a loss of hope. These learners commonly will not want to participate in the lesson as they do not receive praise for their efforts or feel that the teacher has no interest in them; therefore a teacher may decide to praise the learner where ever possible in an attempt to demonstrate that they enjoy teaching the learner so that the learner’s confidence is boosted and lead them to participate more in the classroom, (Wallace, p11-16, 2007).
It is often said that a noisy teacher has a noisy classroom; when one does not manage the behaviours of a class effectively misbehaviour can spread and positive behaviours can become extinct. It is a responsibility of the teacher to model the behaviours that they expect from their learners; it is in fact the teacher’s behaviours that can impact most on the resulting environment that they teach in, (Steward, 2008).
Cowley suggests that behaviour management is about the building and sustaining of relationships with learners even when a learner has no interest in relating to you in return, (Cowley, 2010).
One might imply that this is a humanist approach following Mayo’s (1933) theory of management; being aware of ‘social needs’ and catering for them to ensure that learners collaborate with the class rules rather than work against them. Using the names of learners is much more likely to focus their attentions on what they are doing and understand you are aware of their misbehaviours.
It has also been suggested that a behaviourist approach by teachers, such as methods promoted by Skinner in operant conditioning, can cause a greater impact on the learning environment. When one reinforces positive behaviours by using praise or rewards you demonstrate what is acceptable. Reinforcement can simply be the teacher giving a nod of the head in agreement. Frequent reinforcement in the early stages of learning, then at random or fixed intervals can aid the learning process significantly, (Reece and Walker, 2006).
When approaching the management of behaviour certain guidelines are in place to help teachers make appropriate decisions. These range from legislation laid out by governing bodies to policies of the individual organisations.
Legislation to consider in the management of behaviour within the learning environment, in relation to punishment of behaviours includes acts such as the Equality Act (2006).
The Equality Act (2006), which has 9 areas protected by law, (age; disability; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; and sexual orientation), requires one to eliminate unlawful discrimination and harassment as well as promote inclusivity, (Ashmore et al., 2010). This means that should a teacher choose to use punishments in managing behaviour it must be done on an equal ground for every learner.
Further to this the Department for Education states:
“In determining whether a punishment is reasonable, section 91 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 says the penalty must be reasonable in all the circumstances and that account must be taken of â€¦ requirements affecting them.”
(Department for Education, p5, 2012).
Whilst one needs to manage behaviours in the classroom it is important to consider that issues are addressed to all learners which display the behaviour in the same manner. One rule for one, one rule for another will only re-enforce insecurity of a learner in your classroom.
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Learners can attribute punishment of their behaviour as discrimination in these areas; they may see challenges as a negative attitude towards them being an external, stable factor outside of their control and thus not change the behaviour but continue them as a manner of keeping their control of the situation and in their mind stay secure, (Steward, 2008). It is therefore apt to ensure one maintains discipline of smaller misbehaviours rather than letting them escalate to larger ones requiring further sanctions.
Organisations will often layout their own guidelines for teachers in dealing with misbehaviour. Blackpool and the Fylde College requires learners to abide by a Code of Conduct which covers areas of behaviour such as respecting their fellow leaners and those working in the college environment to being committed to their choice of course and taking responsibility for their own learning, (Blackpool and the Fylde College, 2012).
The college literature defines misconduct as:
“inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour which breaches the code of conduct whilst being a student attending this College”
(Blackpool and the Fylde College, p2, 2012)
This may include minor breaches of the Code of Conduct such as lateness to sessions or failure to meet deadlines which are written on a ‘Cause for Concern’ form and incorporated by the learner’s tutor into an action plan.
Further breaches are escalated to a senior tutor who works in a second action plan and inform the learner further breaches will result in a formal procedure being implemented.
The policy states that it is the responsibility of a learner’s tutor to meet with them should they breach the Code of Conduct and to agree a way forward. They are to create together an ‘Action Plan’ to list the specific behaviours to be introduced/avoided. The policy encourages staff to support and encourage any student in changing their behaviour pattern towards one which co-operates with the Code of Conduct, (Blackpool and the Fylde College, 2012).
The policy also states:
“Where a teacher feels that a student’s behaviour is detrimental to the work being carried out by the class, the teacher may exclude the student from the duration of the class. The teacher will report this action to the Head of School and record the decision on an appropriate form (SMP1). This temporary exclusion is meant to deal with minor student behaviour problems which require an immediate response”
(Blackpool and the Fylde College, 2012)
Whilst one can appreciate that in an extreme circumstance you may feel that you have to ask a learner to leave, one should remember that there is the responsibility of safeguarding learners. If you ask them to leave, you cannot be sure where they will go to and with FE learners, a majority being between 16-19 years, there is a responsibility of being in loco parentis.
The management of behaviour is key skill for any effective teacher so that their learners can get on with learning. A teacher is in the environment to teach but unless the behaviours that occur are dealt with effectively on cannot fulfil this role, (Cowley, 2010). One should remember that whilst behaviour management is something that teachers do have to deal with it is not what the entire focus of their practice should be.
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